Why does your soap dish look the way it looks? And why do you hold a spoon the way you do? You probably wouldn’t have lost any sleep over these questions, not even when these everyday objects doesn’t work right!
E veryday products, they are so numerous and ubiquitous. They form the material framework of our existence, enabling it to function, not only in practical or utilitarian terms but also in ways that give pleasure, meaning and significance to our lives. But why don’t we notice them? Most of us travel by the same route every day, do similar tasks every day, go to same places and although we are awake and seeing things around us we are not actually looking at them consciously. Hence, such products are frequently taken for granted.
Design, to my understanding, is much about having an eye for such details and bringing back life to mundane objects. I would like to emphasize on the act of “Observation” as a necessary tool to design useful products.
For quite sometime now I have been deeply intrigued by the everyday mundane objects lying all around us. The market is flooded with a plethora of redesigned products but very few redefined objects.
When one re-designs a product, one tends to retain the essence of it’s being…the soul. However gives its body a complete make over…without even hitting on the mind. When we re-define, as the word itself suggests, we work on the soul of the product, we question its very existence. Thus, giving the product a new mind and a fresh body.
A beautiful body is as important as a beautiful mind. An aesthetically balanced product drives the customer close to itself. “Form-material” relation is one of the demanding parameters of a good-looking product. It makes it desirable. Color adds the oomph factor!
Mind is that aspect of the product, which interacts with the user/customer. Sometime it directs the user to handle the product in a particular way and sometime it doesn’t.
Soul is the essence of its being, its purpose, satisfying the user’s wants/needs.
It brings about the WOW! Factor. A good product is which is a perfect balance of BODY – MIND – SOUL.
Tips to design Everyday Objects
The first step is to gain an empathic understanding of the problem you are trying to solve. This involves observing, engaging and empathizing with people as well as immersing yourself in the physical environment to have a deeper personal understanding of the issues involved. Empathy is crucial to a human-centred design process and it allows designers to set aside their own assumptions in order to gain insight into the user’s mind.
Let us take the example of a regular multipin electric plug.
We all use them probably everyday at our office, home and even while in transit. It is such a mundane object that we do not even notice it most often. However, I am sure you would have sometime felt if the product could be improved. As a designer of everyday objects, I took this opportunity to elevate the experience of using a multi-plug.
The pain point I identified with was that the pins of a 2 pin plug get loose and tend to fall off when plugged into the multi-pin electric plug, causing sudden switching off of any gadget in use.
Next step is to analyse your observations and synthesis the pain points in order to define the core problem that you seek to solve. In my project, the exact problem was that the regular multi-pin electric plug had a flat bottom and there was nothing to stop the loose 2 pin plug from falling off due to gravity.
At this stage, we generate a lot of ideas. No idea is good or bad. I had this idea that by slanting the bottom side of the regular multi-pin electric plug the loose 2 pin plug might get self-locked due to gravity. My idea was to capitalise on the root cause of the problem to create the solution. Gravity caused the plug to fall off, now gravity will help it stop.
There is no shortcut to success. It’s time now to produce a number of inexpensive, quick models of the product so that we can investigate the problem solutions generated in the previous stage. This is an experimental phase, and the aim is to identify the best possible solution for each of the problems identified during the first three stages.
The solutions are implemented within the prototypes and, one-by-one, they are investigated and either accepted, improved and re-examined or rejected on the basis of the users’ experiences. By the end of this stage, the design team will have a better idea of the constraints inherent within the product, the problems that are present and have a better/more informed perspective of how real users would behave, think, and feel when interacting with the end product.
After several iterations, I arrived at an angle of 40° for the slant which now stopped the drop of 2 pin plug due to gravity.
The final product was tested for all electrical and safety compliances and launched in the Indian market as the Angular Multiplug. It has become an iconic best seller for the brand.